It’s always the ones you don’t see, the unglamorous ones working behind the scenes to keep things going, that seem to get forgotten. Yet, without them, things would grind to a halt. This is true of all endeavours. Think about a play; you see the actors, but all the stage hands, set builders and costume and prop designers are the ones that make it really work. If you just put the actors on the stage by themselves, well, you’d have a pretty lacklustre show.
This is true as well when it comes to war and the machines that fight them. It’s always the sleek fighters and powerful main battle tanks that grab the public’s attention and imagination. However, these frontline brawlers can’t get where they need to be, or even stay there, without support. Whether it’s supporting aircraft or ground vehicles, the “stars” can’t shine without a lot of things working behind the scenes to enable them to do so.
A perfect example is the humble truck. Not a lot of people really think about military trucks. Sure, we know they’re there, and doing, well, truck stuff, but… I mean, they’re not out there FIGHTING, so they’re not really important, right? Suuure. They’re not important until you need Casevac, food, ammo, fuel or you need something towed. Then, all of a sudden, a truck becomes not only an asset, but a life saver in many cases. How do you think those planes get their gas, or those valuable field hospitals get their medicine and dressings? Exactly. It’s all thanks to the good old truck, just minding its own business and doing what it does best: “truck stuff”.
Still, despite this, there aren’t anywhere nearly as many kits of military support vehicles as there are tanks and other more aggressive vehicles. It just isn’t fair, when you get right down to it.
That’s why I was very excited to pick up the Hasegawa 1/72 Isuzu TX-40 Gas Truck at a local show. For one thing, it’s in scale to many of my model planes, which is awesome, and exactly why Hasegawa did it in that scale. I expected it to be in 1/76 when I first saw it, but it became apparent very quickly that Hasegawa intended this to be a diorama accessory, not a straight-out armour kit. For another thing, I don’t know much about Japanese ground vehicles, other than that their tanks were pretty sad. It seemed like a cute truck that history had forgotten, and that made me all the more eager to snap it up.
The TX-40 isn’t, as I mentioned, a vehicle about which a lot is known by the layman. It looks somewhat like an early to mid-‘30s Ford or Chevy truck, and even the write up on the instructions alludes to this being no coincidence. However, while the design and styling might have been “borrowed” from other sources, the TX-40 was a purely Japanese vehicle. It was a 2-ton truck developed in the early 1930’s in answer to the Japanese government’s promotion of domestic automobile design and manufacture. It was typical of its kind; a medium-duty vehicle chassis and cab that could be adapted to a wide variety of urban and rural tasks. It is a bigger deal in history than it would seem,
So, let’s dig into this little relic and see how Hasegawa does ground vehicles, shall we?
The box on this kit isn’t very big, but it is a lot longer than a traditional Matchbox armour kit. It’s more the size of one of the Matchbox “orange” range multi-piece armour kits. The art on the box is very old-looking. It’s right on par with the Matchbox art of the mid-late ‘70s; very gritty but water colour-y at the same time. You can almost feel it when you look at it.
The focus of the illustration is the TX-40 itself, parked on an airfield. In the foreground is a large cart with a few oil/gas drums on it, with more drums lying behind it. Oddly, the driver of the truck looks more like a typical grizzled American soldier than he does a Japanese one! There’s tropical vegetation in both the background and the foreground, and I get the impression that this is a tropical island air base, not one on the Japanese home islands. This is reinforced by the Ki-61 in the background; early Tonys were sent to both New Guinea and Rabaul, and this painting seems to be depicting the TX-40 in service in one of those theatres. The colours are all a bit faded or washed out, lending a sense of it being very bright and hot in the picture. This also matches those aforementioned locations.
The art itself isn’t overly dramatic, but it is solid and lets you know what’s in the kit (namely the truck and trailer/cart thingy). The utilitarian nature of the truck is emphasized by its drab colour and how well it seems to just blend into the background palette of colours. To the left of the main illustration is a fairly large panel of olive green that contains the kit subject and scale information as well as the Hasegawa logo and some Japanese writing. It is just as drab as the truck itself, lending an air of aged basic-ness to the kit.
The thing that blew me away was the date on the kit: 1987! This box art looks a decade older than that! The thick, heavy colours, muted tones and just the general style aren’t like the Hasegawa boxes I’m used to seeing, so I had assumed that this kit was much older than it was. There isn’t much on the side of the box; an olive drab-backed write up on one side, and a few small “cross-sells” for other kits on the opposite one.
While the box art may look old and a bit imprecise, the kit is nothing of the sort. In the box there are two sprues of medium-grey plastic and one small piece of clear plastic for the front window glass. Interestingly, the cab of the truck is loose; there’s no place for it on the sprues. This is confirmed by the rack drawing on the instructions, too. I bought my kit second hand, so it was unbagged, but I’m sure originally this kit likely came in a single back as well. There’s an instruction sheet with English on it (it is the “international” edition, as proclaimed on the box to, after all) and a very small decal sheet.
With kits from this era, I was expecting a lot of things to come in halves. However, except for the oil barrels (which promise to be fun to assemble and sand…), however, this isn’t largely the case. Most subassemblies are moulded as one-piece, including all the wheels/tires, the cab and the various springs and driveline components. The entire chassis/floor pan is one piece. To my surprise, this included the fenders, which I would have put money on being separate pieces.
The detail, while not stunning, is very good. The diamond plate texture of the rear fenders, as well as the fabric texturing on the cab’s roof, are excellent. The wheels are also well detailed for their size, and even the leaf springs have their individual layers reproduced. Still, this kit is very short on interior detail. Quite frankly, there isn’t really any. There’s an L-shaped bench for a seat and a simple steering wheel with column, as well as a floor shift. That’s it. No instrument panel, no patterns on the insides of the cab at all (neither door nor roof) and, of course, almost nothing for an engine.
In this way, the kit is quite disappointing, even for its era. A lot of people play up how great Hasegawas are, but this particular model doesn’t really reinforce that. It’s just as basic as any Matchbox, and while some of the pieces might be finer, I wouldn’t say that this thing is going to win hands down in any kind of face off any time soon. Still, it’s a small scale kit that is designed mostly as a diorama accessory, and for that the detail on it is sufficient. Just don’t go into it expecting more than that, and you’ll be good!
As for the fuel cart and drums, this is a neat addition to the kit that reinforces its “diorama accessory” nature. You don’t need to build them (I might not) if you just want the truck part, but if you are making an airfield diorama, the cart, figures and drums are a nice extra. There’s little to the cart; it’s a one-piece plate onto which a handle and wheels are glued. The drums, though… those might be a problem. They’re well-moulded, but each one is 4 pieces. The main barrel is in halves, so sanding that is going to be a problem, or if not, at least it’ll be a good workout! The figures are nothing special, but are good 1/72 figures. One has some extreme “post-age” on his back, so some sanding is necessary. However, I will say that the figures are indeed an area in which this Hasegawa beats Matchbox all hollow. These two figs are SO MUCH better than the usually softly-detailed Matchbox figures, and miles above the “halfy” that came with the Matchbox M-16!
Instructions and Decals:
As far as instructions go, the TX-40 has a single triple-folded sheet that contains a small write up about the truck, the typical (and much loved, especially when buying second-hand) parts layout diagram and 8 steps of assembly.
The drawings are all very well done, and are very clear. They also have an English (Remember – this is the International version!) description of the steps as well, although this is totally unnecessary. While looking at the instructions, it’s easy to get a feel for the strengths and weaknesses of this little model. Clearly, the strength is on the outside of the kit, and there are a lot of fiddly bits that are shown getting attached in the later steps. However, it only takes a couple of simple lines to show how to build the cab’s interior and the entire cab itself.
The instructions are very easy to follow, and unlike some of the Hasegawa aircraft instructions I’ve seen, simple. There’s no worrying about which of 4 versions you’re building here. There’s only one flavour of TX-40 in the box, and this is how you build it. The painting instructions are actually very comprehensive, and call out not only colours, but FS numbers. I was expecting Tamiya or Mr. Colour numbers, but it was a nice surprise to get straight out FS calls. These, of course, are open to interpretation, as I’ve seen a lot of different schemes for this truck online; everything from army olive drab to tan to beige-grey to an almost RAF PRU Blue. I’m sure these little workhorses came in even more variety than that, so you can likely get away with whatever you want.
The decals are not much to write home about. Literally, there are 4 decals on the sheet, and only one is called out for use in the instructions. This is the “licence plate”; I don’t know what the other decals are, or where they go; maybe they’re for a differently equipped TX-40? Regardless, you’re not going to have to budget a lot of time for decalling this puppy.
When you get right down to it, this is a good, if not basic, little kit of what is a very important, but largely forgotten, vehicle. It has good external detail, is finely moulded and comes with nice diorama elements, including the cart, drums and figures. I know that this kit has been included in at least one (maybe more?) Hasegawa boxings that are full diorama kits, so it has withstood the test of time, largely.
While I don’t think that the kit helps build on Hasegawa’s stellar reputation, it certainly doesn’t do it any harm, and for builders of small-scale armour it’s a welcome addition to the fleet. There is certainly a lot of potential for doing weathering, custom building or detailing on this kit, and I’m sure there are some out there that are just done up to the nines! If you’re not into that, though, I’m pretty certain that you’ll still get a good result out of the kit; just don’t turn it over or look too closely into the cab!
Despite the apparent simplicity of the kit, I don’t feel it’s suitable for inexperienced modellers. There are a number of fine parts, and a good knife or sharp, fine cutters are needed to get them off the sprues safely. The fiddly nature of these parts means a steady hand, and some good tweezers, are going to be needed. I can see this kit creating some frustration for a more junior modeller, so until you’ve had a chance to build some other kits and get a feel for how styrene works, I’d keep this one on the shelf. It’s not that it’ll bamboozle with complexity or part count, but it just seems to shout “pitfalls” at me when I look at the sprues.
If you like trucks, though, and you’ve got the tools, patience and experience to give this little guy a go, I’m sure it’ll be a fun time. It’ll certainly look a bit different on the shelf, and if you park it beside an IJN or IJA plane kit, both will benefit!